Hallelujah, in the name of our Lord Jesus I bear testimony, I thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity to be able to bear witness to God’s great grace and mercy and to glorify His name. I pray that the lessons here can be an exhortation to all.
On 23 December 2019 (Monday), I woke up with a ringing in my ears, nausea, dizziness and chest pain, thinking it was indigestion or having slept with the wrong posture the previous night. My wife, Megumi, did what she could to help me ease the pain. Stubborn as I was, I decided to go back to bed and tried to sleep it away, but the pain got worse. It was then that I knew that these were symptoms of a heart attack but I was still hoping they weren’t. I told my wife to take me straight to Pantai Hospital in Kuala Lumpur. I’ve never seen her drive so fast in my life.
Upon arriving at the Emergency Room (ER), I told them I might be having a heart attack. They sent me inside where I kept asking for glycerin to thin the blood immediately. This was something I’d learnt from first aid, but they told me that only the doctor could prescribe that. Having seen my electrocardiogram (ECG) reading, the ER doctor said very calmly, “Yes, Mr. Liew, it looks like you are having a heart attack. We will need to take you straight to the Cath Lab to do your angiogram.” After discussing with the ER doctor, I understood that it was just a simple procedure. It was nothing critical, and I could go back home after a day or two. They asked if I had a cardiologist in Pantai Hospital and I asked for Dr. Yee, who is also our church brother and the husband of Sis. Joanne Yee.
As they were starting to prepare me for the procedure, I was losing consciousness. Even though it was a typically busy early Monday morning, I remember Dr. Yee coming by at the right timing, morning and going through my details. I remember Megumi asking me for my pin number because the hospital required a deposit. After that, I lost consciousness. Then, the next thing I remember was shouting very loudly in pain. My eyes opened for a split second, and I saw Dr. Yee holding the two paddles. At that moment, I knew I had a cardiac arrest, which means my heart stopped. Otherwise, why would they need to use the defibrillators on me? Then, I lost consciousness, and I don’t remember anything after that.
What was told to me after that sounded very much like a serial you would watch about the hospital. The entire ER went into a state of chaos, with people starting to run here and there. They ushered Megumi out and drew the curtains. I know she’d started to cry. It was then that she made a phone call to my son, Joshua, who was attending a theological course at Olive Garden, Port Dickson. She said, “I think your Papa is going to die. Please pray for him.” Joshua immediately went to find a preacher to pray with him. Thank God, Joshua got to pray with all the helpers at the office while I was still receiving defibrillation. Although she was frightened and traumatized, she also felt a sense of warmth and peace within her. God was with her. She definitely felt it. Megumi has led a prayerful life and knew how to rely on God.
As I had lost my pulse, they proceeded with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), followed by the defibrillators, which send electric shocks to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. Thereafter, I was told that my heart had stopped twice. To revive me, I was shocked 29 times, and some nurses even said 35 times. During my time in the recovery room, most of the nurses and staff in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) would come by to check on me and tell me how I gave everyone a scare and how lucky I am to be alive because they have never heard of anyone who had been shocked for 35 times and yet managed to live. Some came to ask me if I had an out-of-body experience, which I didn’t. I was also told that some ER nurses actually wanted to stop the CPR because I wasn’t responding to the treatment. But Dr. Yee had insisted on continuing until we reached the Cath Lab. This emergency situation caused everyone to become extremely stressed and tense. At that moment, all Megumi could do was pray and watch the commotion from outside.
In the waiting room, they sent some counsellors to talk to my wife and asked her to gather the immediate family members as soon as possible. Thank God, my family came immediately to comfort my wife. The counsellors told them to prepare for the worst, because my heart had flatlined twice. In the case that I should live, I could have permanent brain damage.
When the nurse came out after my procedure, asking for the family of Liew Ming Chze, you can imagine how scared they were. They told my family not to have high expectations. My family was in shock and expected bad news as they’d just been told to go in. Dr. Yee, who just came out, told our family, “We need to check whether he is alright or if he will suffer adverse side effects because of the temporary stoppage of the heart.” I was then sent to the ICU immediately for further observation.
In the ICU, I was put on a respiratory support system, which means that I was no longer breathing on my own. The anaesthesiologist said I didn’t have the capacity to do so, not knowing if it was me or the condition of the brain damage. The following day, at about 7am, I was awoken. “Mr. Liew, you have to wake up. You have a tube in your chest. Please don’t try to remove it. Please breathe and stay awake.” They stationed a nurse to keep me awake and she came in to show me the video display of my breathing. There’s a yellow line that goes up to indicate my breathing, and a green line that indicates the machine breathing for me. She told me that if I wanted this tube removed, the yellow line would have to go up more. Lying there on the ICU bed, it was like playing a video game, watching myself breathing on the screen until about 11.30am when they finally came to remove it. Dr. Yee came by around 12:30pm to let my whole family know I was okay. Thank God, there was no permanent damage to my heart, except for a very bruised rib cage and electrical burns, I was going to be alright. I felt like I’d become a punching bag. Hallelujah! Praise God!
THE SELF-REFLECTION & RECONCILIATION
Upon waking up that morning, I saw a clock directly facing me. The first thing that came to my semi-conscious mind was that I had an appointment at 2.30 pm. How was I going to cancel the appointment? What about the other clients? I hadn’t changed. Not one bit. I was the same old man who had caused this to happen. I hadn’t even realised fully what had happened to me and even if I was consciously aware, the realisation hadn’t sunk in yet. Throughout my entire life, I have had a reputation of being very stubborn and hard-headed in my pursuits.
Even when my family came to see me during the first visit, I asked for my phone so I could reply to messages. During their second visit, I asked for my phone again like a drug addict would for his drugs. The moment I received it, I began to frantically reply to messages and emails, I even had time to scold my staff on business matters and call some of them up to find out about updates on meetings. My father and Megumi walked out of the room. My son didn’t come in to see me. I don’t blame him.
That night, I realised why this had happened to me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I realised that I have turned into someone that doesn’t deserve this loving family. I realised that I was meant to die because I was a disappointment to God. My family had always had a deep personal journey with God, while I had been walking the opposite direction, away from all that. I was meant to die because I’d feared nothing—I was arrogant, proud, conceited and I angered God. I know the person I am; there was nothing good left in me. Joshua would’ve lost his father; Megumi would’ve lost her husband; my sisters and brother-in-laws would’ve lost their only brother; my father would have had to bury his son. We wouldn’t have had our chance to say our goodbyes. This was my awakening—a chastisement. I broke down and cried. That night, I sent my family members messages to try to make amends with them.
I realised that this was my second chance in life. I couldn’t go back to the previous man, and I know God loves me, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I never will be able to understand what He sees in me that deserved a second chance. If you had a life-changing experience, but refuse to change, what good is that? This was meant for me. The timing was perfect for me. This was God’s customised way to teach me the lessons I needed and wake me up from a long downward spiral of sin.
Though it was a painful experience, I am thankful that I was given a second chance to redeem this wretched soul of mine from a life of disgrace. While I laid there on my bed, the only thing I could do is pray for forgiveness and mercy. Though some church members felt that this wake-up call from God seemed very severe, some agreed that it was well-suited to what I had done in my life. I agree with the latter.
Over this past event, after reflecting on my chastisement and what happened, here are my lessons:
- Prayers are very powerful. Although I asked my wife not to tell anyone, she still relied on the church and prayers. If it wasn’t for the church’s intercessions for me, I know I wouldn’t be here. I grew up in Petaling Jaya church. It is home to me and I know how much this family in Christ loves me. I am sorry for giving everyone such a scare. I know many prayed very hard for me. Intercessory prayers are the most powerful. Never doubt how prayers work (Mk 11:24). So when you receive requests for prayers, drop what you are doing, get down on your knees and pray (1 Jn 5:16).
- Don’t anger God. God’s wrath is severe. Whatever we do either moves us one step closer to God or one step further from Him. Once you have gone too far, you will experience what I did. God won’t let anyone He loves to fall too far behind. You will be chastised; make no mistake about it (Job 5:17).
- Walk in faith. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov 3:5-6). My mother always used this verse on me. Don’t try to be too smart, or don’t think you are so smart that you don’t need God in your life (Mt 6:33). The Lord provides you with everything you need (Phil 4:19). We might be familiar with the saying that, “God helps those who help themselves”, but this does not exist in the Bible (Mt 6:26). God wants us to rely on Him, and not to be arrogant about our own abilities (1 Sam 2:3). God determines your path; everything comes from Him (Eph 1:11).
- Repent. I never understood this word until now. This is something that is going to take a lot of effort and prayers. Second chances are meant for you to make amends with God, with yourself, with your family, with the people who love you, with the church, with your colleagues (Mt 22:37-39). There are many examples of how to repent in the Bible (Psa 51). If your realisation doesn’t come with repentance, then there will be no forgiveness (Lk 13:3).
- Nothing on earth matters, except our journey with God. Our careers, our belongings, our lifestyle—none of these matter (Phil 3:8). The only thing that matters is whether we have a personal relationship with God. Seek first His kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you (Mt 6:33). Coming home to my own apartment and looking at the things I valued, I realised I have nothing valuable—not even anything sentimental or any heirloom. What matters most is that you and your family share a God-fearing life here to serve the Lord (Deut 11:13).
- We don’t have two separate lives—a physical life and a spiritual life. We only have a spiritual life. The physical is so temporary. The spiritual life requires you to be in church and to walk with God. Don’t ever leave church, whether physically or emotionally. Many people over the years have left the church. Many were my closest friends—some used to serve God. I have always harboured this issue with God as to why he did not keep them in His fold. This was why emotionally, I’d already left church, even though physically, I was still attending. No matter what your reasons are, never leave the church. The church is made up of people; people will never be perfect. God is. Therefore, keep your eyes fixed on God (Mt 24:13).
- The TJC-IA App has sermons. I realised that on my hospital bed. Try it out! God’s word through sermons tells you what you need to know and hear. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than God’s sermons nourishing us on a daily basis (Rom 10:17).
- God’s chastisement is not just about you—it affects everyone whom God loves as well. Therefore, you need to go through this. I realised that there’s only one plan in life and it belongs to Him. Understand why God needs to chastise you. It’s not an admonishment. It’s not a rebuke. It’s a chastisement to give you a second chance to change. It’s time to turn around your life (Acts 3:19).
God’s providence is great, and his timing is perfect. Just before I was discharged I was inadvertently asked to stay one more night, and it was then Pr Elisha Shim from Singapore who just arrived to Kuala Lumpur for a short break came by to visit me in the hospital. In his exhortation to me, he shared this passage from Hebrews chapter 12:5-11 which pierced my heart:
“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
My son sent me this verse:
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich, do not trust your own cleverness.” (Prov 23:4)
In the hymn, “He looked beyond my fault”, I finally understood the lyrics:
“And I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary,
To view the cross where Jesus died for me,
How marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul,
He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.”
God saved me; He gave me a second chance. For the rest of this life, before I really die for good, I had better die worthy of His salvation. My sister sent me this verse: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for us even when we were dead because of our offenses, made us alive together with the Messiah” (Eph 2:4-5). I realised that by grace, I have been saved. I hope that none of you will ever need to be chastised. I am but a worthless speck. Who am I to deserve such grace and mercy? What does God want from me? I have a lot of questions, but all I know now is to place God first in my life and all will be good. There are no worries and cares when you have learnt to trust the Lord with all your heart. He will never fail you.
All glory be given to our Lord Jesus.